COMPOSER BREDE RØRSTAD, founder of the ambitious Music Population Project (MPP) and its realization in Portland's Music Population Orchestra (MPO), is breaking down the wall of pretension between the classical and the indierock aesthetic. The orchestra's music is as much Björk as Baroque, and more exciting and innovative than anything you read about on Pitchfork. While the Portland MPO geared up for a series of December shows, Rørstad answered our questions about the organization, its music, and goals, the day after he moved back to Norway (his home country) to start a branch of the MPO there.
MERCURY: What exactly is the MPP?
The MPP is an organization striving to build community by bringing chamber music back to the people. In order to get around many of the obstacles that get between the people and the music, we are establishing a new economy of chamber music—one where the currency is giving and receiving rather than trading commodities. This way we hope to give more people the opportunity to experience what chamber music can mean today, rather than being a representation of something that is a reflection of a long-gone cultural context.
What makes you write the kind of music you do—a blend between pop and chamber music styles?
The last few years I've been on a personal mission trying to explore ways of writing music that [are] just as much pop music as [they are] "classical." I have done a lot of work writing what in academic circles would be called electro-acoustic music that I instead call "klatronic," since it doesn't really fit under either one of those categories. For the MPP there's been a more specific purpose: to write music that can involve and excite people in a club setting—people who may not have any prior experience with chamber music.
What Portland MPO performance was the most artistically successful to you?
I think the orchestra's most profound performance was the one where we, with the help of Portland Institute for Contemporary Art and the B Street Gallery, closed down a block of NW 13th. and did two performances in the street on a first Thursday. The musicians were fighting the wind, traffic, sirens, and chatter, but ultimately it created an amazing context, where this all blended in with the music.